Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating look at the way we age today and the extent to which we can shape the process
In What Makes Olga Run? Bruce Grierson explores what the wild success of a ninety-four-year-old track star can tell us about how our bodies and minds age. Olga Kotelko is not your average ninety-four-year-old. She not only looks and acts like a much younger woman, she holds over twenty-three world records in track and field, seventeen in her current ninety to ninety-five category. Convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, Grierson set out to uncover what it is thats driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history. Olga participates in tests administered by some of the worlds leading scientists and offers her DNA to groundbreaking research trials. What emerges is not only a tremendously uplifting personal story but a look at the extent to which our health and longevity are determined by the DNA we inherit at birth, and the extent to which we can shape that inheritance. It examines the sum of our genes, opportunities, and choices, and the factors that forge the course of any life, especially during our golden years.
"Olga Kotelko took up track and field at age 77. Today, she holds 26 world records, setting most of them in 2009, the year she turned 90. Over a four-year period, journalist Grierson (U-Turn) accompanied Olga to meets and practices as well as to appointments with physiologists, geneticists, trainers, and others as they studied Olga's extraordinary achievements. Analyzing everything from Olga's life history, diet and daily routine, to her genetic makeup, brain, personality, bone density, aerobic capacity, muscles, sleep patterns, memory, and more, they found that although Olga is an outlier, there could be more people like her given the right circumstances. As Grierson explains, studies show how older athletes benefit from having started their sport later in life without the accumulated damage from early overexertion, and highlights conditions that worked in Olga's favor her active childhood on a farm in rural Saskatchewan, the way she has always integrated movement into her everyday life, and her intuition about her body. The middle-aged, fairly sedentary Grierson compares his exercise routines and his DNA to Olga's, portraying their growing friendship as he describes the mysteries of longevity and extols the benefits of exercise. Grierson's fellow boomers have much to learn from Olga's example, given that scientists now think that longevity is 70% 75% lifestyle and only 25% genetic. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"While this book provides an accessible overview of the current science on aging, its charm comes from the tale of a woman who refuses to hang up her track shoes, and the younger man she inspires." —The New York Times
"Entertaining, informative, and surprisingly moving."—The Boston Globe
"An inspirational blend of hero's journey and science that delves into the mystery of longevity, health and personal fulfillment." —Shelf Awareness
"Grierson offers an exemplary answer to the longevity question . . . Dedicated runners and weekend warriors, as well as athletes of all types, will find hope in Olgas story." —Washington Independent Review of Books
"An inspiring book that should appeal to the legions of worried agers." —Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
"If you need some motivation to reach your potential, this might be the story for you." —Cape Cod Times
"Exhilarating…[Griersons] deft re-creation of the moving and humorous bond between Kotelko and himself gives the book its center. A stimulating and inspiring read for all."—Library Journal
(starred) "Grierson's fellow boomers have much to learn from Olga's example."—Publishers Weekly
"Eye-opening and insightful." --Kirkus "Smart and engaging, What Makes Olga Run is also profoundly inspiring. It will make you wish you were half as fit and exuberant as Olga, whatever your age, while providing a fascinating look at the latest science on aging." —Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes"I am nuts about this book and about Olga. But the real kick was accompanying Bruce Grierson - a very good writer - as he took a smart, deep look into the new science of aging - and not aging - at the high end. I know this field a bit, and I still learned important new stuff...all of it great news. Hint: work out like a lunatic 'til the day you die. And jiggle your feet the rest of the time. Olga 'redefined' Grierson's life; she may redefine yours."--Chris Crowley, co-author of the Younger Next Year books and Thinner This Year"In Olga, Grierson has a magical character with whom to explore the fascinating science of aging--a nonagenerian undecathlete. (That is, a 90-something who excels in 11 different events.) We are left with the empowering knowledge that, to a startling degree, aging itself is a choice." —David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene
About the Author
Bruce Grierson is the author of the books Culture Jam and U-Turn. He has been a freelance writer for twenty-five years. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Psychology Today, among other publications. He lives in North Vancouver, Canada.